POLITICAL MORALITY MATTERS

From Hightower Lowdown, Vol. 15, No. 7, July 2013

“They’re not thinking straight. They’re not rational.” That is Barbara Parramore’s understated assessment of the feral, mad-dog politicos now in charge of North Carolina’s state government.

In the past half century, this southern state had built a reputation for having a relatively moderate government that provided good schools and other essential public services to enhance the common good. No more. Today’s GOP supermajority is sledgehammering all traces of basic decency. It has rammed through hundreds of bills to decimate and corporatize public schools, has denied health coverage to half a million people, gutted jobless benefits, unleashed big oil frackers on local communities, suppressed access to the polls, shredded progressive (and effective) campaign funding laws, shifted taxes on the rich to the sore backs of the middle class and poor, restricted the rights of women and labor, and even killed the state’s proud Racial Justice Act.

The whole of their perfidy is worse than its many parts, for these are not just a few laws, but a total assault by a government gone rogue, wildly stomping on the majority of its own people. It goes beyond mere politics. As Parramore points out, the state’s betrayal is now “a moral issue:’ But what can one 80-year-old longtime teacher and school principal do about that? “Speak up,” she says. “Be arrested.”

She is one of thousands of North Carolinians who’ve come to the capitol rotunda for one or more of an ongoing series of non-violent, clergy-led, weekly protests by the state NAACP a wide variety of groups and just plain citizens that are now part of these “Moral Mondays.” Since April, some 500 of these voices of reason-including Ms. Parramore- have been arrested and hauled to jail in handcuffs. They are being charged with the crime of “trespassing” on a public building! Mindboggling!

Not satisfied with arresting their state’s concerned citizens, North Carolina’s petulant Republican over- lords are also insulting them: “Moron Mondays,” snorted one learned solon. And Gov. Pat McCrory, apparently taking his cue from such clueless reactionaries as Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey blames outsiders for fomenting the insurrections, calls their gatherings “illegal assemblies,” and even refuses to meet with them.

Worse is the brutish suppression attempted by Art Pope, the state budget director and the governor’s chief hatchetman. A multi-millionaire discount marketing mogul (Variety Wholesalers is the name of his discount chain), Pope is one of the nation’s top funders of extremist right-wing causes and politicos (including McCrory). One of his front groups has launched a website that targets every arrested pro- tester for harassment (or worse) by far-right wing- nuts. The online database includes each protester’s name, city of residence, occupation, other arrests, group memberships, voter registration information- and a mugshot.

Not only is Pope punishing citizens for having the audacity to speak out against their government (and, specifically, against him), but he also hopes to intimidate others from joining the movement.

It’s not working. Moral Mondays are persevering and growing so much so that they’ve recently added “Witness Wednesdays” to accommodate the crowds and up the pressure. In part, the growth is due to the political pettiness of plutocrats like Pope. As one observer of the protests said of Pope’s repressive tactic, “The more info posted about arrestees, the easier it is for us to thank them and support their businesses, schools, and churches.”

States are becoming the new front line in the Pope-Koch-ALEC war to subjugate government to the agendas of corporate lobbyists and ideological extremists. The Tar Heel State is showing the way to shine the spotlight of public shame on the immorality of their actions. So, why not a Moral Monday movement where you live? For information on how North Carolinians did it go to the Institute for Southern Studies: www.southernstudies.org

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